Tallinn against free public transport for nonresidents

Free rides on county bus lines will still need to be validated.
Free rides on county bus lines will still need to be validated. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Tallinn City Government did not agree with a draft decision of Tallinn City Council to abolish the city's public transport ticket system and expand free public transport to nonresidents as well beginning July 1.

The city government argued against the expansion of free public transport for two reasons.

Firstly, annual ticket revenue in recent years has been €4.5 million, which the city does not want to lose. Secondly, it is thought the introduction of free travel rights for all residents of Estonia would exacerbate the problems public transport in Tallinn already face.

The letter of explanation noted that, unlike many other countries, Harju County did not introduce free public transport several years ago, and there is no reason to do so in Tallinn.

"Those passengers who have used Harju County's public county lines would transfer to Tallinn public transport at the city limits, which would lead to overburdening [of city transport] while Harju County lines would be underused within city limits," the explanation reads. "Tallinn transport would not only lose out on ticket revenue, but the need for subsidization would increase to cover increased volumes of passengers."

The city government said Elron trains would also need to introduce a similar scheme for passengers traveling into Tallinn, and would need an increase in their funding.

However, the city government did not rule out the possibility of free public transport in Tallinn for all Estonians in the future but said this would require state support. Currently, the state does not fund urban public transport.

The city government said: "Introducing free public transport for all public transport users would mean an additional cost of about €20 million to the city budget."

That €20 million would include lost ticket sales, line expansions, hiring additional bus drivers, annual salary increases under pressure from trade unions, and money to buy new bus and trams.

Currently, the state supports eight of Tallinn's bus lines, which end in neighboring municipalities. 

City government: The ticket system must stay

Secondly, the bill wants to eliminate the entire ticketing system on public transportate in Tallinn. 

But, the city government believes the electronic ticketing system is needed to plan route networks and timetables.

The explanatory note said: "Validation data is required for the development of a sustainable public transport network and no public transport center plans to abandon it. Information from ticket validation is needed in the planning process."

In addition, abandoning the ticket system would entail contractual penalties and the ending the existing development work.

The city government noted: "We have set up a modern ticketing system, supplemented by QR tickets and the possibility to buy a ticket with a contactless bank card in the last two years. Giving up this would not only be economically unjustified but would entail paying a significant penalty."

It was added in the explanatory memorandum that the validation obligation cannot be waived because the data from the electronic ticketing system finance the costs of bus routes crossing the administrative border of Tallinn between the state, different local governments and the city of Tallinn.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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